Well we did it! Finished in one piece, no injuries, no bike issues and with huge grins on our faces!! My finish time was 15 hrs 10 and Dave’s was a magnificent 13 hrs 52!!!
We couldn’t wait to show mum our medals! So far we have raised a whopping £2000!!
I am still coming to terms with what we have actually achieved! It was hard, really hard but at no point did I want to give up, in spite of the dark place I was in 6 hours into the bike, faced with a head wind, tired legs, a whole load of unrelenting hills and the thought of running a hilly marathon!
The day before, this one smashed the Ironkids!!! His first 1.5 k run- I am so proud!!
Well done Eddie!
Then it was time to register and collect the bags!! How much stuff????
Cycling legs- ready!!!
So then it begins!
It was an early start, not much sleep the night before, mixture of nerves, excitement and the sound of the wind rattling the hotel windows! Alarm went off at 4.00- shower, coffee and chocolate to get me going and then porridge and a quick faff over bike nutrition! I headed out into the cold windy dark to check on Betty, pop my food and drinks on her and kiss her with a quiet word to her to say that ‘we have got this!’
Then I met up with Dave to get ready for the swim, a quick stretch and wetsuits on!!
I am so glad he was there to hold my hand! It was still dark so we couldn’t quite see the state of the sea, I was praying for calm waters!
It was incredible to see the whole of Tenby bustling with athletes and supporters so early in the morning, there was real excitement in the air! Luckily we met up with Dave’s mate Jon, some of the lovely girls we had met on our training ride back in June and the lovely Jayne Arnold – so there was lots of nervous banter and a lovely distraction from what I was actually about to do! It was Jayne’s 8th Ironman Wales and her advice along the way has been to ‘just stay calm’ – I was determined to rise to the challenge!
Then the music started, the national anthem and the tears! We were off before I knew it and I was heading out to the first buoy- there was lots of jostling, arms and legs everywhere, a little bit of chop and a bit of a swell around the second buoy but there was no way I was going to let my head start taking over, I would not let panic creep in! Keep calm, breathe and head for the lifeboat station. Taking Steve’s advice I looked at the crowds of spectators and the amazing scene around me and just kept swimming- bang I hit one of the boat buoys- ouch! Just a cut finger but all ok and I carried on, picking up the pace as I swam into the shore. The first lap was a good pace, I was well ahead of my predicted time so I relaxed and headed out for the second lap. Choppier again this time, I had to duck dive a few little waves on the way out but was soon into my stride. My confidence was growing and growing and I nailed the last buoy turn- just skimming it and then surged with the pull of the water into the shore for the last time- one of my quickest swim times! Chuffed with 1 hour 19! So on with the trainers, grab the pink bag and run to transition! Boom- swim done with plenty of time!
A quick change, a munch on a jam and peanut butter sandwich and me and Betty were off!
Thankfully I had no mechanical issues or punctures! I tried to keep my average pace above 15 mph for the first loop and my predicted times were looking good! My huge fear was not getting through the cut off times but I had calculated everything and had the times I should hit the feed stations by written on my aero bars- it was all going to plan! Dave zoomed passed me early on in the ride, looking extremely strong! He was going to smash the ride!
I completed the Narbeth loop and was chuffed to see my boys at the roundabout in Tenby- it was then time to dig deep and tackle the second loop. A head wind out to Lamphey made progress slow down and my average speed was dipping, I was flagging and in a dark place! So I chatted as much as I could to those other cyclists around me and thought of my top ten films! A strategy us girls had decided on whilst waiting for the swim start. I changed the game a bit and asked everyone who passed me to tell me their favourite film too- this was a good distraction technique! I also thought of dear mum, my boys and all those who were supporting me- I wasn’t going to let anyone down, least of all myself!
The crowds on those hellish hills in Narbeth, Wiseman’s and Saundersfoot were awesome, the music, the drums, the pots and pans, the cheers and even the beer breath of supporters got me to the tops of those hills with a smile on my face. It was so lovely to see my Mumbles crew there and Steve’s swim buddies- thank you guys!!
So just before 5pm and after 8 long hours I rode safely into transition and promptly burst into floods of tears, I was in one piece, I had made the cut off time with time to spare and Betty had done me proud! A little chat with myself, a change of trisuit and I was heading out for the run!
I was mindful of getting my nutrition spot on for this bit as I needed the extra boost but my stomach wasn’t feeling great, so my plan was to nibble and sip little and often!
The first lap I took steady up the hills, running, but slowly and picked up the pace on the downs. The first band- yellow- hoorah! The whole time looking for Dave to pass in the opposite direction, Steve had shouted to me that all our gang were safely off the bikes and out on the run which was a huge relief, it was now a case of spotting them and shouting encouragement at each other. The thought of 3 more laps wasn’t great but the support of the crowds through the town was immense and seeing family and friends nearly at every turn willing me on just gave me the biggest grin! Thank you Karen and Pip for your shout outs, it was so lovely to see you! My gorgeous friend Adele was on the last feed station of each lap and each lap she would top me up, cwtsh me, kiss me and tell me how proud she was and send me on my way. We even had a little selfie on lap 3! Thank you lovely girl! The second lap went by and then my knees began to scream! I had to take time out to stretch my IT band to keep going, I took paracetamol and Ironman Em and Ironman Julie ran alongside me before the last lap and gave me a little pep talk! Thanks girls! I had no option but to run/ walk the last lap up to New Hedges where there were still supporters keeping us going in the dark- thanks Norm, sorry I didn’t spot you tho!
Lap 3 Enjoying the TLC from Adele and her feed station team!
I could have kissed the lady who gave me my last band, it was such a relief to know it was now down hill and then through the town to see my amazing supporters for the last time! Lucy and Tom gave me once last shout out, they had been there every step of the way- so grateful to Tom for training with me too! My pace had dropped off but I didn’t really care as I knew I would finish now in plenty of time and wanted to savour every moment.
I then saw my girls who also had made such an effort to come and support me and put in a world class supporting performance of clapping, bell ringing, running along side, cheering, you name it, they did it! Thank you Emma, Lisa, Heather, Catrin, Sam, Lara and Julie!
The finish was now just around the corner! I forgot about my knee pain and focused on finding my boys- there they were just before the red carpet- Tom and Ed shouting and cheering, a quick cwtsh and kiss then a bit further down Steve the rock and the Griffins! Dave had finished a while ago and there they all were to here those words, ‘Kate Croall you are an Ironman!’ Wow I really actually had done it, the most mentally and physically challenging event to date and I had the biggest grin on my face all day! The volunteers were awesome, the supporters made me feel like I was the winner and I have met and shared incredible experiences with some amazing people! It has proved to me that I am stronger than I think and that sticking to the plan works!! I may even get a miniature, discreet tattoo that will be a lasting memory of this journey!
Thank you all who have enabled me to have this experience, in particular Steve and my boys Tom and Ed I love you so much! Mum and Dad thank you for those building blocks that have brought me to this place!
My amazing Ironbro in action! So so proud of you Dave!!
My support team!!! Can’t believe no-one took a photo of Steve!!!